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globulon

globulon

Currently reading

The Last Picture Show (Mass Market)
Larry McMurtry
Dracula
Bram Stoker, Ruben Toledo
Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius
Ray Monk
The Portrait of a Lady
Henry James, Patricia Crick
Maigret et le marchand de vin
Georges Simenon
Le Rouge et le Noir
Stendhal
Cathedral - Raymond Carver On the whole I liked this collection better than "What we talk about...". I see myself reading both collections again I just felt there was more humanity in this collection.

The real experience here was the story "A Small, Good Thing". This seems to be one of the examples of story restored to pre-Lish editing. This story is titled "The Bath" in "What we talk..." The two versions are drastically different. To start with in "Cathedral" it is 30 pages, in "What.." it is 10. Needless to say, there's a lot of stuff that happens in the longer version that is totally omitted in the shorter.

Some changes are minor. In one moment the father asks about an iv drip that has been placed in his absence. The narrator states that it is a bottle of glucose solution, and then the characters say this. I can imagine the editor arguing that the information only needs to be presented once.

Then there are some more intermediate changes, such as descriptions which are cut down or completely omitted. These definitely change the story but it can be debated how significantly. One example is that both a nurse and some orderlies are described in the longer version as being foreign and speaking with either an accent or in a foreign language. It seems this was intended to emphasize a sense of alienation.

But there are large changes that are drastic alterations of the story beyond just the radical amputation. One large change that I found very unpleasant was that in the longer version the parents are named. In the shorter version they are referred to as "the woman" and "the man". I found the result repulsive and not in any particularly meaningful way, although perhaps it could be argued that the intended effect is alienation just as above. It just seemed to kill all the feeling in the story.

Finally the end of the story just seemed like a sick joke in the shorter version but in the longer one this is resolved. So the shortening of the length wasn't merely cutting filler, it really lopped off a whole series of events that change the relationships, and contrast with the previous elements of the story.

I can certainly understand why Carver felt something was happening to his work that he didn't like. I think it speaks a great deal in his honor that despite the acclaim he won for his supposed 'minimalism' that he broke with Lish and went back to what he was trying to do in the first place.